« PreviousContinue »
onal reprobation,-an attempt, of which the Reformer Calvin most heartily disapproved. See a preceding note, page 9.
Mark here the force of this Rhetoric: we are told that the book is designed to “overturn," not opinions of comparatively small moment, but “the LEADING DOCTRINES of the Protestant Reformers," and that the execution is as bad as the design, being replete with “ learned obscurity, artful sophistry, and disgusting tautology." Who, after reading this account, will venture to examine such a wretched "effort?" It is manifest that Doctor Williams understood what he was doing, when he thus affected to despise the learned and judicious Whitby.
He commences his remarks by paying a kind of tribute of approbation to Whitby's learning. But he intimates that this learning is of such an obscure sort as to be unintelligible to him. It is related of Dr. Samuel Johnson, that when he was once engaged in a dispute, his opponent said to him, “I do not understand you, Sir."“Perhaps not,” replied the stern combatant, “I can give you arguments, but I cannot give you an understanding to comprehend them.” This keen remark might be applied to the complaint here preferred against Whitby's “learned obscurity,” were it not obvious that the defect lies rather in the wills than in the understandings of the Calvinistic brotherhood. They do not find it convenient to retain an attachment to their favorite principles, and at the same time to understand Whitby's arguments. Here is the true origin of the alledged "obscurity,"
The charge of “artfal sophistry" is then introduced; and thus, in a manner most singularly offensive, it is intimated, that this venerable author did not write from conviction, but with a fixed design to delude his readers, -an allegation which is utterly groundless, and not proper to be made by any man that has the least pretensions to the manners of a christian and the courtesy of a scholar.
The Doctor also complains of Whitby's “disgusting tautology." Whitby's cogent and powerful reasoning seems to have hurt the Doctor's feelings. And who would not have been as highly provoked as the Doctor, on finding, into whatever sinuous path a Calvinist turned, he was sure to meet with the same sturdy warrior dealing his blows around him with terrible effect? But, it should be observed, that if such a thing as “tautology” is to be discovered in this book, (of which some proof is needed,) the blame falls, not so much on Whitby, as on the patrons of that cause which he thought it his duty to oppose. They have produced the same wranglings, under a great variety of forms; and, on this account, Whitby was compelled on some occasions, when he met the same objections,
to repeat the substance of his former arguments: And when their tremendous bearing on the Doctor's favourite system is considered, it is no wonder that the repetition of them proved highly " disgusting." Ungenerous Whitby! to “disgust" your opponents, as Achilles "disgusted" the Trojans, when he dragged the dead body of Hector round the walls of Troy.
It is natural to enquire, what could induce the late pious Doctor to give such a character of Whitby's writings? It must have been a desire to prevent them from being allowed a place in the « Christian Preacher's Library;" and this desire has originated in a conviction that Whitby is a formidable adversary to the Calvinistic
Having thus briefly vindicated the author and this his work, little more is left than to state that the present edition is printed verbatim from that of 1735. So minutely has it been followed, that, in all places where seeming grammatical inaccuracies occur, they have been suffered to remain as the author left them. The literary execution of the work is in the usual style of that age; and to have attempted any alteration of it, would have been to despoil it of its distinguishing beauties, and to divest it of the character appropriate to the period in which it was written.
Doctor Whitby was particular in translating, in a very able and intelligent manner, all the quotations which he made, in the text and notes, from the learned languages. The small number of passages which were left by him without a translation, will be found rendere ed into English in the notes, and distinguished as the work of the Editor by inverted commas, and his signature subjoined to them.
Leeds, 24th October, 1816.
THEY who have known my education may remember, that I was bred up seven years in the University under men of the Calvinistical persuasion, and so could hear no other doctrine, or receive no other instructions, from the men of those times, and therefore had once firmly entertained all their doctrines. Now that which first moved me to search into the foundation of these doctrines, viz. The Imprestation of Adam's sin to all his posterity, was the strange consequences of it; this made me search the more exactly into that matter, and by reading Joshua Płacæus, with the answer to him, and others on that subject, I soon found cause to judge that there was no truth in it.
1. After some years' study I met with one who seemed to be a Deist, and telling him that there were arguments sufficient to prove the truth of christian faith, and of the holy scriptures, he scornfully replied, Yes; and you will prove your doctrine of the imputation of original sin from the same scripture; intimating that he thought that doctrine, if contained in it, sufficient to invalidate the truth and the adthority of the scripture. And by a little reflection I found the strength of his argument ran thus: « That the truth of holy scripture could no otherwise be proved to any man that doubted of it, but by reducing him to some absurdity, or the denial of some avowed principle of reason.” Now this imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, so as to render them obnoxious to God's wrath, and to eternal damnation, only because they were born of the race of Adam, seemed to him as contradictory to the common reason of mankind, as any thing could be, and so contained as strong an argument against the truth of scripture, if that doctrine was contained in it, as any
could be offered for it. And upon this account I again searched
Another time I discoursed with a physician, who said, There was some cause to doubt the truth of scripture; “For,” saith he, “it
seems plainly to hold forth the doctrine of absolute election and “ reprobation, in the ninth chapter to the Romans, which is attende “ed with more evident absurdities than can be charged on them “ who question the truth of scripture; and also seemeth as repug“ nant to the common notion which mankind have received of di“ vine justice, goodness, and sincerity, as even the saying that God, “ considering man, in massa perditâ, “as lost in Adam,' may
delude .“ him with false miracles, seemeth repugnant to his truth.” And reading, in Mr. Dodwell; a that bold stroke, that “St. Paul, being bred a Pharisee, spake there, and is to be interpreted, ex mente Pharisæørum, according to the doctrine of the Pharisees concerning fate, which they had borrowed from the Stoicks”;" I set myself to make the best and the exactest search I could into the sense of the apostle in that chapter, and the best help I had to attain to the sense of that chapter which I have given in my paraphrase, I received from a manuscript of Dr. Patrick, the late worthy bishop of Ely, on that subject. Thence I went on to examine all that was urged in favour of these doctrines from the holy scripture, and this produced
a Proleg. ad J. Stearn de obstin. See. 41. p. 147.
one considerable part of these discourses. And it was no small confirmation of the sense both of the places here produced against, and rescued from, the false interpretations of the adversaries of this doctrine,
First. That I found I still sailed with the stream of antiquity, seeing only one, St. Austin, with his two boatswains, Prosper and Fulgentius, tugging hard against it, and often driven back into it by the strong current of scripture, reason, and of common sense.
II. Secondly. I also found that the heretics of old used many of the same texts of scripture, to the same purposes, as the patrons of these doctrines do at present; as hath been oft observed in these discourses.
Thirdly. That the Valentinians, Marcionites, Basilidians, Manichees, Priscillianists, and other heretics, were condemned, by the ancient champions of the church, upon the same accounts, and from the same scriptures and reasons, which we now use against these Decretalists; and the principles on which they founded all their .consultations of them were these,
(1.) That it is not our nature, but our will and choice of that from which we might abstain, which was the root and fountain of all our wickedness; “For otherwise,” say they, Tð TONTAVTOS έγκλημα, ,
“ that God who is the author of our nature, must be the " author of our sin’;" this doctrine they unanimously teach, from Justin Martyr and Irenæus, to St. Austin, who declares, natura malas animas nullo modo esse posse, that it is impossible, according to the definitions he had given of sin, that souls should be evil by nature.'
(2.) That we do not become sinners by our birth, and that they who say we are by nature children of wrath,' in the most dreadful sense, make God the author of our sin; it being God who hath established the order, in the generation of mankind, which neither he that begets, nor he that is begotten, can correct, and by whose benediction mankind increase and multiply. “ An infant therefore cannot,” say they, “be a sinner by his father's fault;" taīs ydp UTÒ το πατρός και διδωσι δικην, « for a child doth not suffer punishment for his father's fault,' says Chrysostom and Theophylact: 'Ilws yaç tür γονεων αμαρτανόντων αυτός αν εκολάσθη; • For how should he be punished for the sin of his parents?' say Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Isidore, Pelusiota, and Theophylact, this being,' saith Theophylact,
Lib. de duab. Anim. c. 12.
e In Johan. 9. 2.
d lu Johan. 9. 2. Isid. L. 2. Epist. 272.